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Science

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Project 2: Propose a Mission (200 points)

In this project, you will write a formal paper written at a college level, double-spaced, your name/date/title on the first page. This paper will be a research proposal to NASA, proposing a new unmanned space probe to be sent to investigate some object in our solar system other than the Earth. The purpose of science is to learn new things about the universe, so your probe must be designed to solve mysteries, make discoveries, answer questions, gain information, and learn about some object in our solar system. Professional scientists are constantly writing proposals, which are reviewed by panels of other scientists who select the very best to receive things like funding and telescope time.

Your mission must be a new idea. I do not want a report about an existing mission that NASA has launched or is working on. I want you to use your creativity and your knowledge of astronomy to come up with your own unique idea for a mission. Of course NASA is working on a lot of missions, for example a mission to Jupiter. This doesn’t mean that you can’t propose a mission to Jupiter. It means that you can’t propose a mission to Jupiter that is identical to the one that you can find on NASA’s web pages. You have to invent your own spacecraft, deciding how it will get there and what instruments it will carry. Your goal in this paper is to convince NASA that this is a very important mission and will answer lots of important questions, so they should spend the money necessary to build and fly your mission.

This paper must answer the following questions:

  1. Where will this probe go? You may send it to any place in our solar system. Your proposal should contain a detailed and thorough introduction to the body you plan to study and what we currently know about it.
  2. What other missions (if any) have been sent to your target? What missions have returned data from this body? What are our principal sources of information about this location? Discuss the missions that have told us about this target in the past and report the principal findings of each mission.
  3. Will this probe be a lander, an orbiter, or a flyby mission? If it is a lander, will it be a rover? How long will this mission last?
  4. What instruments will this probe carry? Explain the purpose of each instrument, and why the data it will return is important and useful. (Examples of instruments: The Voyager probes carried visible light cameras. The Magellan probe to Venus carried radar so it could map Venus’ surface under the thick clouds. The Galileo probe to Jupiter carried devices to detect magnetic fields. The Viking landers on Mars carried mini-biology labs in order to look for bacterial life.)
  5. What scientific question(s) will this probe answer? Explain the unsolved mystery or mysteries that your mission will be designed to address. Your proposal should contain a detailed and thorough introduction to each of these unsolved mysteries. State your questions explicitly, using a question mark at the end of each question. Please be specific, and be sure to explain exactly how the instruments carried by the probe will allow it to answer each of these questions.
  6. Why are these scientific questions important? Make a persuasive case for why your mission would be a worthwhile use of NASA’s resources. Remember: The goal of any scientific investigation is to gain new knowledge about our universe.

It’s very important that before writing your proposal, you do careful research about where you’re sending this probe. Read through any information in the text, so you have a clear understanding of what challenges your mission will face. Watch the “Crash Course Astronomy” segment on the object you’ll be studying. Then, hit the library. At the end of your paper, you must include a list of references in the APA style, including our OpenStax Astronomy text and at least three other academic sources. You must list all the resources that you used in writing your proposal. All sources listed must be appropriate for a formal academic paper written for a University level science course. If you have any questions about whether your sources are appropriate, please contact me and I will be happy to discuss them. At each point in your paper where you summarize or paraphrase information that you got from a specific source, you must make an in-text citation in the APA style. Whenever a sentence presents facts which are not common knowledge, this sentence should end with an in-text citation of a source for these facts. For example, a paper might say: “The average surface temperature on Titan is minus 179 degrees C (Smith, 2015),” and in the reference list the paper would give full details on an article by Smith, published in 2015, which is the source of this information. For more information on the APA style, please consult: http://www.bibme.org/apa (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. As always, never hesitate to e-mail me if you have questions.

Can I use Wikipedia as a source for this project? Yes! Most Wikipedia pages about astronomy are very good, so in this course it is acceptable to use Wikipedia pages as sources in your list of references. You can almost always tell the good Wikipedia articles from the bad ones, because the good ones have lots of references to serious scientific sources. In the Wikipedia pages about astronomy, you’ll see lots of references indicated as little numbers in brackets (like this [4]) , and if you click on them, it will show you the source being cited. These references tell you that you’re probably looking at solid information.

An important grading criterion for this project is whether you have proposed a probe that is realistic and feasible. Your probe should be possible with current technology and typical NASA funding levels for unmanned missions. If you propose a mission which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, or is far beyond the reach of current technology, this will have a significant impact on your grade for this project. The more detailed your proposal is, the better!

This is a formal university-level paper, so it should begin with your name, the date, and the title of your proposal. Spelling and grammar count, so proofread your work carefully. When writing, please use the first person plural: “We propose that…” Please do not use the first person singular: “I propose that…” This style makes the writing less personal and more objective, which is an important goal of all science writing. The word “hopefully” is not appropriate in a NASA proposal. Instead, a good proposal presents careful research and thorough planning, so that the mission has a high probability of achieving its goals.

Help! How do I get started? http://www.nineplanets.org (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. is a very good website discussing objects in our solar system, and at the end of each page is a list of “Open Issues” which are unsolved mysteries about each object. You may want to design a probe to solve one of these mysteries.

PLAGIARISM WARNING: Writing a mission proposal like this is a difficult assignment. Some students have been tempted to find information on the web, in articles or books and to cut and paste these words into their mission proposal. This is called plagiarism, and is a very serious form of academic dishonesty. If you turn in any words that you did not write yourself, for any assignment, you must put quotation marks around those words, and cite the source. If you do not use quotation marks, you are saying that you wrote those words yourself, and that’s a lie. Any student who commits this, or any other form of plagiarism, will receive an automatic F for this entire course, no refunds. This doesn’t mean that I want your proposal to be full of quotation marks. I want you to study the topic well enough so that you can write about it intelligently in your own words.

As the grading rubric below indicates, these papers will be held to very high standards. Please do your research carefully, write a really good paper, and only turn it in when you have your final draft. You will not have the opportunity to revise, redo, or change your paper in any way after you submit it. If you have questions or need clarification about any aspect of this assignment, please contact me before your submit your project 2 paper. All grades on project 2 will be final. If you need help with writing this paper, let me recommend the “Online Composition Hub,” which is our writing support center: https://colorado.mywconline.net/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.This is particularly important if English is not your native language.

Most importantly, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail if you have questions or if you need help with any aspect of this project!

Grading Rubric:

In addition to the system outlined below, 5 points (2.5%) will be deducted for every error in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues. So, for example, if a paper contains 7 errors in grammar, but is otherwise perfect, the best score it can earn is 165 points.

200 Points – A Perfect Paper

All six questions are answered specifically and in great detail. There are no factual errors in the science presented. The proposal clearly explains in great detail how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. The mission as proposed is realistic with current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal is well structured and successfully persuades the reader that this mission should receive funding. References and in-text citations are used correctly and in the APA style. There are no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues.

175 Points – An Excellent Paper

All six questions are answered specifically and in detail. There are no factual errors in the science presented. The proposal clearly explains in detail how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. The mission as proposed is probably realistic with current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal is well structured and successfully persuades the reader that this is an important mission. References and in-text citations are used correctly and in the APA style. There are almost no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues.

150 Points – A Good Paper

All six questions are answered specifically and with a reasonable amount of detail. There is at most one factual error in the science presented. The proposal clearly explains how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. The mission as proposed is nearly realistic with current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal is structured and is reasonably persuasive that this is an important mission. References and in-text citations are used nearly correctly in the APA style. There are not many errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues. This is the highest score that can be earned for a paper which does not explicitly state a research question using a question mark.

125 Points – Borderline

All six questions are answered, although some detail is lacking. There may be two factual errors in the science presented. The proposal explains how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. The mission as proposed is close to being realistic with current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal is structured and is somewhat successful in persuading the reader that this is an important mission. There are only minor issues with references and in-text citations in the APA style. There may be a few errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues. This is the highest score that can be earned for a paper which does not have any in-text citations.

100 Points – Weak

The mission may not make sense, given what we know about your target or significant details are lacking in answers to the six questions, or there are more than two factual errors in the science presented. The proposal does not clearly explain how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. There are significant aspects of the mission which are not realistic with current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal has some structure and organization, and is somewhat successful in persuading the reader that this is an interesting mission. There may be significant errors in references and in-text citations, or a style other than the APA style is used. There may be some errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues.

75 Points – Poor

The mission may not make sense, given what we know about your target or not all of the six questions are answered, and significant details are lacking. There are several factual errors in the science presented. The proposal does not explain how the data returned by the probe’s instruments would answer the scientific questions posed. This mission is beyond the limits of current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal is poorly organized, and is makes limited efforts at persuading the reader that this is an interesting mission. There may be significant errors in references and in-text citations or a style other than the APA style is used. There may be significant errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues. This is the highest score that can be earned for a paper proposing a mission which investigates an object outside of our solar system.

50 Points – Very Poor

This proposal does not satisfy important aspects of the assignment, which is to propose an unmanned mission within our solar system. The mission does not make sense, given what we know about your target or many of the six questions are not answered, and significant details are omitted. The data returned by the probe’s instruments would not answer the scientific questions posed. There are many factual errors in the science presented. This mission is far beyond the limits of current technology and typical NASA funding levels. The proposal has little organization or structure and is does not persuade the reader that this is an interesting mission. There are significant errors in references and in-text citations, or a style other than the APA style is used. There are significant errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical issues. This is the highest score that can be earned for a paper which is not an original idea, but is simply a report on a mission which NASA (or another space agency) has already launched or is already working on.

25 Points – Unacceptable

This paper is so poorly written that it is difficult to understand the author’s intentions. Errors in grammar and spelling make it hard to know what the author is trying to say. It may not be written using complete sentences and paragraphs, but could simply be a list of sentence fragments. This is the highest score that can be earned for a paper in which more than 75% of the sentences contain errors in spelling, grammar, or other mechanical issues.

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